Better Roadblock Management – Dis-Un-Empowerment and Square Wheels

My regular readers know that I use images and metaphors to express a lot of my thinking. My basic metaphor for how things work looks like this:

Square Wheels One LEGO Main Image in LEGO by Scott Simmerman

Square Wheels are the way things really work, and the Round Wheels are already in the wagon. Don’t just DO something, Stand there!

For 20+ years, I have been playing with issues of empowerment and engagement and team building, using cartoons and games to drive out desired behavior and produce better communications and alignment to goals and missions. I take the low road on all this, working hard to keep things really simple because I find that things ARE really simple.

In moving from my line-art representations to using these LEGO block images and themes, I am working to upgrade some of the simple toolkits we sell and support. Right now, we have the Square Wheels Icebreaker Toolkit (the very simple communications tool) packaged and on the website.

And I am working on the materials for the Roadblocks Management Toolkit, which will be a large expansion of the existing one that has worked so well to dis-un-empower people and workplace improvement ideas. I thought to put a “work-in-progress” update here as a blog post, with the offer that if you purchase the OLD toolkit, I will update you with the new one, at the OLD PRICE!

The model is rebuilt, using LEGO pieces to represent the roadblocks, with images in powerpoint to generate discussions along with worksheets for use in processing the ideas. The OLD one works fine, and the new one will work better. Save a few bucks and get the NEW one at the old price if you act now.

Square Wheels LEGO POSTER Roadblocked

There is more to come, and a slideshare program and maybe a short video describing how things can change and how managers can more effectively involve their people in workplace improvement ideas, along with team building and coaching frameworks,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

 

 

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The Workplace and the Work – Thoughts on the 8-hour day

I’ve posted up a number of things about the workplace over the years, and also about a lot of the current-day issues of over-connectedness and the average 72-hour workweek of many managers.

This is reflected in this article from last year – Working while Not Working – The Problem of Overconnectedness – which shared a bunch of statistics and issues and data.

I came across another interesting site that I thought to share, one that focused on general thinking about The Workweek and that shared some interesting thoughts on our assumptions.

Why do we have 8 hour work days in the first place?

How do we spend out time? This image is from the article by Leo Widrich:

image of hours in a day

 

Widrich writes with the idea that workers or managers somehow have a choice about their workweek. Maybe that is true, but there is a LOT of data that suggests that the average worker is a LOT more connected and involved than that simple 8 or 9-hour workday.

Many of us own our own businesses, and my week is pretty much described as, “always.” I will respond to email on Saturday night at midnight and work 6 hours on a Sunday before turning on the TV and watching a movie while I write this blog. How can one even calculate how many hours a week I am connected in some manner to the business?

I DO like a lot of his recommendations, which I adaptively reproduce below. Read his original article for a lot more ideas:

The top 4 tips for improving your work day

I’ve started to make 4 distinct changes to implement the above research better. Here is what worked the best:

  • Manually increase the relevance of a task: Now, a lot of us still might struggle to find the focus, especially if no one set a deadline to it. Overriding your attention system, and adding your own deadline together with a reward has shown some of the most significant improvements for task completion. 
  • Split your day into 90 min window. Instead of looking at a 8, 6 or 10 hour work day, split it down and say you’ve got 4, 5 or however many 90 minute windows. That way you will be able to have 4 tasks that you can get done every day much more easily.
  • Plan your rest so you actually rest: “The fittest person is not the one who runs the fastest, but the one who has optimized their rest time.” Says Tony Schwartz. A lot of the time, we are so busy planning our work day, that we forget about “how” to rest. Plan beforehand what you will do your rest. Here are some ideas: Nap, read, meditate, get a snack.
  •  Zero notifications: One of the best ideas I’ve ever had was to follow Joel’s advice on Zero Notifications.  Having absolutely no counter on my phone or computer changing from 0 to 1 and always breaking my focus has been a huge help. If you haven’t tried this yet, try to turn off every digital element that could become an alert.

The comments to his post are also very interesting. People have a lot of different perspectives on things.

My guess is that a lot of us have already adapted his as well as our own ideas toward managing our work. I’ve been in my business 31+ years and guess that I keep things at least somewhat in balance. I was going to the gym 5 or 6 hours a week but that ended because I blogged about Planet Fitness and some issues of trust, respect and engagement related to their leadership that were pretty obviously poor in the impacts on their workers. Those workers have some obvious issues of being poorly managed, in my opinion.

Now, I guess I will add in more bicycling and kayaking to the schedule, along with the pool and the gardening. While there is always something to get done, some of it can wait. But call me any time and I will answer,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

 

Thoughts on Square Wheels and Blended Learning and Facilitation Skills

I continue to throw mud at the wire fence, looking for where the stick is the greatest and expecting rain. Normal progress, it would seem.

Two weeks ago, I completed a course on Moodle, with my focus being on trying out ideas for a simple course on facilitation and engagement that uses my cartoons as visual anchors for group discussions. The goal of using eLearning is to package a stupidly simple but bombproof overview of how to use the cartoon in the context of facilitating a group meeting of issues and opportunities for workplace improvement.

The design is to get a worksheet into the hands of workers to capture some of their ideas about how things work and what might be done differently. Here is what the worksheet looks like, asking people how the illustration might show how most organizations really work:

Square Wheels worksheet handout

I am taking this #blendkit2015 course as a way of gaining a bit more perspective on building the back-end, the interactive and collaborative part of my Square Wheels Facilitation Course.

So far, it looks like a good idea. Yeah, I will get a Badge for completing parts of the program, but that is also one of the things that I want to do with my Moodle Course, to give people badges of completion anchored to the development of their skills in involving and engaging other people, in asking and not telling. That should pay multiple dividends to many people in most workplaces.

SWs LEVEL 1 LEGO Facilitator Badge

So, I am herding cats and frogs and moving all this forward, looking for a way to go more global with these tools and impact more people for workplace improvement. If you are interested in playing with these ideas with me, let me know. I am looking for some collaborative partnership to involve, engage and motivate workplaces with these simple tools.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

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Beautiful Math – Euler’s Law and Square Wheels

This post is a little off the beaten path for the blog but I thought that this article was really pretty interesting and easy to understand. I like it because of how cleanly and simply it explains some really complicated but elegant math.

Like my Square Wheels theme, I really like things that are simple and elegant and this little equation:

e + 1 = 0
(
e to the i times pi plus 1 = zero)

is pretty amazing, as well as very common in the world as we know it!

It is an equation about numbers, constants “pi” and “e” — you can remember the latter from Einstein’s famous equation. Both are transcendental in that they are infinite quantities when expressed in decimal form. You will know pi from the simple math about circles, though. “e” is about compound interest, Moore’s Law and everything that moves about and accelerates.

Leonard Euler figured this out in 1748. Basically, pi and e are connected in a dimension perpendicular to the world, a place that is measured in units of i (the square root of -1, an imaginary number which actually does not exist. But its expression in visual forms is amazing:

The_Baffling_and_Beautiful_Wormhole_Between_Branches_of_Math___WIRED

Check out this article by Lee Simmons for a more detailed explanation and some more graphic representations of how this simple equation explains so much about the world of math and physics and our understanding of how things really work. Beautiful stuff, for sure, like my Square Wheels representations of how things really work:

Square Wheels represent how organizations really work - by Scott Simmerman

In Square Wheels, things will just roll on and on and on and on unless someone takes the time to stop the wagon and look for opportunities for improvement and change the math. The round wheels already exist…

Euler’s Law and Square Wheels roll on,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

Note:

Pi goes on to infinity. A few digits are here and you can find it out to one million numbers at this website. Infinity is SO large that, when letters are expressed as digital numbers (a = 1, b = 2, etc.), you can find the entire contents of War and Peace expressed digitally in sequence within its string of numbers. In fact, infinity is SO large that you can find the contents of War and Peace along with all of my blog posts in sequence. It is an unimaginably large number…

3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647093844609550582231725359408128481117450284102701938521105559644622948954930381964428810975665933446128475648233786783165271201909145648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273724587006606315588174881520920962829254091715364367892590360011330530548820466521384146951941511609...

 

 

 

Trust and Respect: Should you force your managers to lie, PlanetFitness?

I wrote a few weeks ago about the Wade Hampton PlanetFitness gym and their apparent policy of zero engagement of customers and employees.

You can read about my issue with sanitation and the simple layout solution that I offered up to management. But the reality is that ideas from employees and customers go into a black hole – they are not encouraged and they get no response. Senior Managers must have ALL the ideas, right?

Well, it is sad to say that the story got worse right after I published. Hard to believe but true.

That blog post went up on Sunday and I was in there Monday to do my regular workout. The store manager, Danny, stopped by and said that the owner and his regional manager were in there that morning and he shared the idea with them. He seemed pretty positive about how that all went down and was smiling when we talked. Apparently, and I guess at this, he seemed to feel that his management was actually listening.

On Tuesday, though, I get a phone call and it is Danny telling me that my membership had been canceled!

He said that my blog post depicted members and that was a violation of membership privacy and he was forced to cancel my membership. It was apparently because of this picture:

Planet Fitness has correctable  issues of engagement and sanitation

Is any customer privacy really violated? Could the people in the picture even identify themselves? Would they complain to management? Seriously??

 

THIS picture violates member privacy? 

It does not take much to get underneath that behavior to guess at the cause. His boss or bosses had negative personal responses to what I had said about their continued behavior of ignoring any suggestions from anyone. Their staff had commented on that before plus I never got a response to any of my emailed suggestions sent to their offices. My guess is that they were embarrassed by the blog and the conclusions and that they were a bit vindictive — in a get-even mode. How do they get even? Fire The Customer!

The problem is that store-manager Danny was now put in a position where he had to lie to a customer — he was forced into an unethical and illogical position. I asked him about it and he would not respond. He would not blame management, he would have no comment other than repeating that the photo above violated the contractual statement on customer privacy.  OTHER people in the store would also not comment about the situation — a gag rule seemed to have been implemented. How do the workers feel?

Put yourself in Danny’s position. Your boss forces you to call a customer and tell them that they are fired, and for really dubious reasons. You know it is a lie and the customer knows it is a lie. How would YOU feel about that?

Do they not realize the impacts on things like trust and respect? The customer certainly loses respect for the manager and the manager must lose respect for his boss and boss’ boss.

They lose a customer who was a pretty good customer. They get some negative publicity in social media. The regular employees certainly see what is going on, since one commented that he saw the paperwork that cancelled me out. It gives me one more “never do this kind of thing” story. It is sad, really. What does Danny say to me when I see him on the street or does he simply pretend that he does not know me?

And, if this is some policy, why won’t other people do a similar thing when they want to get out of their contract with them? You sign a multiple-page commitment that is hard to get out of but this sure seems like a simple way: publish a selfie with other people on Facebook. That seems to be their rule…

I think that the reality of this, insofar as ethics and leadership, trust and respect, innovation and creativity and continuous improvement is that senior managers need to understand that ruthless reactions to employees and customers is not really a good leadership principle. In my social interactions in the weeks since this happened, I have shared this story with a few dozen other people and they all support my thinking as to the arrogance of the ownership of this company.

PlanetFitness. It’s a gym and a job. Just a gym with poor employment practices…

The choices made seem so illogical. The customer offers ideas for improvement and gets fired by the owner!

 Your thoughts?

(Note: Since I was telling other people about this and they were asking for the details, I felt committed to follow through and put more information into this people and performance blog. It is simply sad to see “leaders” of organizations make such poor choices and treat their people in unethical ways. It is sad that employees are forced into difficult situations like these.)

Scott Simmerman

Square Wheels will roll in Amman, Jordan

The International Association for People and Performance Development (IAPPD) is a fast-growing network of performance improvement specialists. I had the distinct pleasure to be invited to present at their MENA Conference (Middle East Northern Africa) and to have the chance to improve my perspective on how things work in the world.

IAPPD Logo 100

I framed up most of my program, which will include a morning program using our new Square Wheels LEGO tools for improving communications with a focus on ownership and engagement. I am going to model some different facilitation approaches to involving and engaging people for workplace improvement and the identification of issues and opportunities for change.

Watch a 50 second video here and click on the poster image below to go to the conference registration site:

Scott_Simmerman_IAPPD_2015_MENA_Conference_Square_Wheels_and_Lost_Dutchman

IAPPD SWs LDGM marketing graphic

My afternoon session will build on teamwork, alignment and collaboration as we use our team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, as a tool for organizational improvement. You can click on the link above and see a short video about the exercise.

We’re expecting a large turnout and also inviting people to bring teams from their organizations to make the day into a real organizational development workshop. I’ll be embedding the train-the-trainer into the Square Wheels and also be available to do any instructional training for people interested in buying and running the Dutchman program themselves.

Jordan will be my 41st country to visit and I am looking forward to the trip and the workshops,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

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Zero Engagement at PlanetFitness?

For almost a year, I have gone to the PlanetFitness operation not far from my office. They did a really good job of converting a dead KMart location into a busy and viable business, which was the anchor for the whole strip mall. It seemed like a really good operation.

building

With my business being organizational improvement and addressing the Square Wheels that often exists within operations, there were a number of things that I had commented on to assist management in keeping things clean or noticing a piece of equipment not working and similar.

One constant complaint was the music — I really did not like it and continually joked that the playlist was selected by the owner’s 13-year old daughter, since it constantly reflected that type of music and seldom anything else. The lack of fit was obvious – the average age of the customers during the times I was there was probably 40 and many wore cumbersome headphones and earbuds. Even the staff did not like it and suggested I complain. I did, online at their main website, but never got a response. I never got a response to the dozen or so Twitter complaints with their #planetfitness tag… (One has to assume that they monitor that, right?)

Well, a real Square Wheels became apparent to me about a month ago, concerning a cleanliness / health issue. They have pads available for stretching that many people use, but few actually clean. Now, I clean the pad thoroughly before and after I use it – and I wish others would simply spray it down when they are done.  My guess if that there were better customer loyalty, which is driven by employee loyalty and commitment, things would generally be better.

But this sanitation situation also got me thinking about physical solutions to change people’s behaviors, as I think with pretty much everything I see. The cause is, in part, location of the use of the mats. Customers use the pads far from any cleaning station and many are too lazy to walk the 50 feet (even though they are there for fitness!). They are not actually stored there, but that is where customers choose to leave them. And many of the customers use these pads on the floor in a high foot-traffic area:

room

The door on the far left is where staff go to get cleaning supplies and leads to a back door where they probably park cars and keep their lunches, etc. I have not been back there, but there is constant traffic through that door. You can also see one of the yellow cleaning stations in that far back right corner.

My simple idea is to move the first row of machines forward to be on both sides of that purple pole and then move that second row of machines forward, putting the pads on that white wall and moving the cleaning station to the middle. Traffic would be improved and the people would be in a more private area of the room. With the pads nearer the cleaning stuff, customers would be more likely to wipe things down. They would also keep them back there instead of all over the building. Seems easy, with no cost.

In talking with the manager, he basically said that it was a corporate decision on design and that this was the way they wanted it. He could not even try it — he could NOT make the change and my impression is that changing this would get him in trouble!

My proactive self then asked if he could make the suggestion to someone and he essentially threw up his hands with a “that would never work / they would never listen” kind of response. I would guess he tried that before, since he had been with the company a long time. My guess is that he would not bother to make the suggestion. I even got the impression, based on a question, that my suggesting directly it would not even get a response.

I asked the staff, who are great. ALL of them are good people, including the manager. But they also confirmed that making a suggestion was a waste of time. A couple had apparently made suggestions about the music and other things but gotten no reaction.

IS it really corporate policy to not respond to requests and suggestions about business improvement ideas from customers and employees? Seriously? One wonders about the morale of the employees in different locations, working for average or below average store managers (remember that there is a normal curve of performance among any group of people — half are above average and half are below, statistically!)

One wonders about employee turnover and other business costs.

Another real impact is the sales of materials. PlanetFitness devotes visual space to branded merchandise:

people 1

But they don’t sell much. My guess is that locker combination locks and the different skin creams are much bigger sellers than the branded t-shirts. With high margins on these items, suggestive selling by loyal employees would certainly add revenues to the store and company.

But my educated guess is that sales are minor, that engagement is nil, and that the company is successful simply because of positioning in the marketplace. I also know that competition is a real thing and the playing field will change.

Why does the company NOT encourage ideas for improvement in store operations? Why is there so much un-engagement? My guess is that they just do not value people — customers and employees — in their overall efforts to manage their business.

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.
(John Le Carre)

And if it were me, I would sure be out there asking for new ideas and talking with everyone whose behavior determines my success. As a customer, I sure would appreciate it if the place were kept better sanitized. If the employees and customers don’t care, only price will drive them into the business.

Maybe someone from corporate will actually read this blog and consider doing something differently, like visiting the property and asking employees for ideas to improve the business, both the operational stuff along with the customer service along with the merchandise sales. Stay tuned, I guess… I share my ideas and information freely, like their staffs would.

After all, the round wheels are already in the wagon, but sometimes the rope used by the wagon puller can get pretty long!

Square Wheels One image of performance by scott simmerman

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.

Square Wheels are a trademark of Performance Management Company
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

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